It’s ironic that society puts so much pressure on one to be “intelligent”, “smart” or “clever” but when one actually displays such qualities, they are ostracized. Names like “teacher’s pet”, “smart-aleck”, “show-off”, “know-it-all” are thrown at them and in turn, they withdraw or keep their thoughts to themselves.
I’m going to say something that’s considered socially unacceptable, and that is I’m one of them. I have the fortune of being gifted intellectually and emotionally. As a young child, I started out a little slow academically but I soon caught up pretty fast, though never the top of the class I performed mostly above average.
But what I believe I excelled at from the start was emotional intelligence. I could predict the motives, thought-process and next course of action for most people. Having this skill enabled me to carefully plan what I could say or do to elicit a response or action that was favourable. This might sound manipulative and probably is, but often high emotional intelligence comes with strong empathy, which kept me in check from being a psychopathic manipulator.
But this gift soon revealed itself to be double-edged sword. Being able to understand emotional and social dynamics meant that I often had to censor what I say. I’ve struggled my whole life making and keeping friends as I was never sure what could or could not be said lest I offend or rub others the wrong way. So with these thoughts never leaving my mind, they fester and disfigure into the creeping ghoul known as loneliness.
When I say I’m lonely, I don’t mean to say I repel people, but I feel alone around people. Finding someone who’s interested to listen, discuss and reciprocate my thoughts is a hard task. And I try when I can, I test grounds, I initiate openings to deeper conversations. But more often than not, the playing field end up destroyed by a barrage of biased opinions and arguments that ceased any hope for two-way non-biased debate.
People get defensive or clam up when a controversial or non-aligning topic is brought up. Or they’d rather not think about it because it doesn’t concern them. Sometimes I envy them, when ignorance is bliss. What must it be like to live life only having to think or worry about what’s in front of you.
What I crave for is profound relationships. Granted, technology has created many new avenues for this – Reddit communities, Facebook groups, discussion boards, public blogs. But it’s a far cry from face-to-face interaction where you get the whole experience of assessing verbal and non-verbal communication. It’s much more rewarding seeing someone in the flesh speaking passionately about something. There’s a certain adrenaline rush when partaking in real-time discussions and intellectual discourse, when the mind gets stimulated. Sounds like an addiction, because it is.
I recently interviewed a brilliant young person who said that he was addicted to mental stimulation. So he challenged himself to learn all the things he was passionate about – coding, poetry writing, music, video creation. He fascinated me a great deal. I was ready to hire him but he wasn’t ready to commit to a full-time corporate job. And I could understand why.
But what he said about being addicted stuck with me. It was true. I find myself incessantly looking for articles, videos, movies, books, TV shows, experiences, anything that could trigger that rush of dopamine. There are times I have to force myself to stop to allow some downtime for mindless activities. Would I call it a curse? Maybe, but I could never imagine living life differently.
Could this be the infamous paradox that the more intelligence one has, the more lonely one feels? Again, this is not lonely in the physical sense. It’s matters of the brain. If anyone reading this feels I’m in any way bragging, being condescending or self-important, I’m not. If you know me personally, you’ll know I’ll never cross that line.
And you probably wonder why don’t I just go out and find people who are like-minded. Well, I ask myself that every day. I enjoy and greatly value alone time. At this moment in my life, going out to socialise is an arduous task. Torn between giving time to myself and this, I’ll just have to settle with writing for now.